True to President Bush’s odd celebration of people and policies seemingly at odds with his own administration, Bush has often celebrated Teddy Roosevelt, who broke up America’s big trusts and monopolies — while Bush and his team build them up.
Today, the FCC ruled in a contentious battle to deny wholesale rate access to competitors of regionally monopolistic Baby Bell firms, like Verizon. Why is this important?
Because we are going to see rates to businesses and household consumers rise. We are going to see incumbents entrench themselves in old technologies with slower rates of innovation. The powerful forces that were driving costs down while at the same time generating new and bold innovations in information technology are being strangled.
The problem is that collusive interests are undermining the will of the U.S. Congress which tried to make absolutely sure that facilities that the Baby Bells inherited after the break-up of AT&T were made available at fair rates to competitors who could not be expected to create massive new regional and national facilities to reach consumers.
Since the facilities provided both a windfall to the Baby Bells as well as a potential choke point to strangle competition — Congress decided in the 1996 Telecommunications Act to force open access to these Baby Bell controlled facilities to ensure competition as well as new investment in rival technologies.
This regime has been collapsing for some time. The bottom line, in my view, is that Michael Powell knows his days are numbered at the FCC and he’s going to need a job soon.
Not only is Powell not protecting the country from the nefarious consequences of concentrated media power, he is driving it. He has exploited Janet Jackson’s boob-stunt to create fear throughout the broadcast media on the viability of provocative educational and political content. And now, he is stifling America’s broadband-rich potential and taking us back to a time of oligopolies in technology firms.
He wants to work for one of these telecom firms, maybe be on a few boards. But if he ends up on the Board of Directors of Verizon, Bell South, or any of the other Baby Bells; or perhaps on the board of News Corp — lawyers of the world unite because it will cap off an incredibly corrupt game of self-dealing by Powell that has at the same time ripped off consumers and businesses in this nation, dramatically harmed the spread of broadband, and helped take us into an era of concentration of power in media and telecom firms that undermines democracy and working markets in this country.
Verizon just sent me a really nice, official 2004 White House Christmas Ornament. I like it and bet this post gets me taken off the firm’s Christmas gift list, but curtailing competition is not good for Verizon or any of the other players in this industry, and government has abandoned its crucial responsibilities in this sector.
Teddy Roosevelt would be incredibly pissed off at you, Michael Powell.
And George Bush does nothing.
— Steve Clemons